By Christian Schiemann, Market Development Manager for ABB Australia's Smart Buildings Division.
From smartphones built with hundreds of functionalities to intelligent kitchen appliances that cook delicious food automatically, technological advancements have brought control to our fingertips.
There are many reasons to love a smart home. Firstly, it makes life so much more convenient. If you have invited friends over to watch a movie together, a tap on your screen will dim the lights to create the perfect setting. On sunny days in the summer, the system can lower your blinds to keep the house cool. And in case you can’t locate your smartphone, just say the word to “Alexa” or “hey Google” and experience the atmosphere changing to match your mood.
Secondly, smart homes automatically switch off all lights and devices and lowers the home temperature when you leave, making your home more energy efficient. What’s more, smart homes help you be a more responsible citizen. By turning off unattended appliances and devices that we might sometimes forget to turn off when leaving the house, you are contributing to a greener environment.
Thirdly, smart homes are safer thanks to motion detectors connected to the system, which will set off an alarm if somebody comes too close to the house. At the same time, the smart sensors ensure that you don’t get woken up with false alarms such as the neighbour’s cat walking by. And you don’t even have to be at home to greet a guest – wanted or unwanted. If you have a visitor or delivery person, your door system will alert you via the smartphone app wherever you are, and you can communicate with them.
Smart home technologies have advanced exponentially in the last few years. ABB is proud to be leading the way through our ABB free@home® and ABB-Welcome solutions. Apart, they each offer value to homeowners. Together, they connect home from the entrance, right through the house, into the garage and back again. While we are driven to support environmental benefits, our home solutions are strongly about making life easier, more comfortable, safer and smarter – and delivering savings along the way.
Home life starts at the entrance with ABB-Welcome. This door communication system enables full control from within the home or even remotely. Audio and camera technology allow residents to identify visitors, whether letting guests in with a tap of their tablet or managing home security in the event of attempted intrusion. For many, this is where they start their smart home journey. With scope to integrate far greater capability, it’s a sound start at that.
Freedom and affordability with ABB free@home®
One of the exciting areas of progress with ABB’s smart home offer is ABB free@home, which has unlocked affordability at a whole new level. In the past, when people became interested in a smart home, they easily faced a $15,000 – $25,000 installation cost, which for some was a massive leap from conventional installations. With ABB free@home, we have really closed the gap for homeowners and installers seeking an affordable solution. It comes with a much more intuitive user interface that doesn’t need a thick manual just to run your home. For installers, it’s far easier to adopt, with virtually no cost for training and additional software. For both end users and installers, it’s also a genuine option for renovations and existing homes, not just new builds. Wired, wireless and hybrid options mean that people can even start with just a few areas of their home and run the system via the app with no touchscreen interface. Choice can be truly tailored and extended at any point.
The fundamentals of ABB free@home span lighting, heating and cooling, shutter control and more. When used to its full effect, a fully integrated set-up can even anticipate how you want your home to be run, from switching off devices when sensors detect you aren’t home, to learning your preferences for lighting and sound, to controlling your shutters based on weather patterns. You can create scenes that combine lighting, colour effects, music and more to suit different modes of your home life. It’s all available through one, intuitive system – with a growing range of designs to suit a broad range of home interiors, including options that are easy to retrofit in existing homes.
ABB’s free@home solution was a key factor in the successful completion of South Australia’s first 10 Star rated energy efficient house. The SUHO 10 Star home is set to become the blueprint for future energy efficient housing across Australia. Besides safety and comfort, ABB’s home automation is very much focused on energy efficiency and was a clear contributor to supporting this project’s sustainability credentials. The ABB system is programmed so that many of the key features that make the house comfortable and energy efficient are automated.
Flexibility and geofencing with ABB free@home®
Flexibility is key, and that’s why ABB free@home has been designed so that functions can be used individually or in tandem with others. You can also add new functions down the track. To date, homeowners can control as many as 65 functions via a control panel, tablet, smart phone, smart watch and even the likes of Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, with third-party integrations expanding all the time. This means people can now use voice commands to control their lighting, sound, temperature and more – an added layer of comfort and control. With the ability to connect home appliances, that convenience goes to a whole new level, setting your coffee going, checking your fridge door is closed and ensuring your oven is switched off even if you’ve already left home.
One of the smartest features is the use of geofencing. This is where your house and smartphone connect via GPS so that your home can detect when you are getting close. Your smart home can open your gate, turn on your driveaway lights, and already have your cooling or heating set to your desired temperature. These are the automations that make life easier and better so you can focus on what matters most (which is not the basic running of your home’s technology).
Energy savings offer another area of benefit. We know that, for example, if we can reduce mean room temperature by just 1º, that’s a potential 6% saving on heating. The actual figures change based on home size and other factors, but it’s a good rule of thumb. When people switch off their heating or cooling completely, that can be costly in other ways, so the ability to automate standby temperatures can really add up in terms of savings. Because all home functions can be managed automatically – by schedule, sun set or rise, temperature, or the movement of people – or manually at the touch of a button, the use of energy is matched far more precisely to need, increasing those savings possibilities.
The smart home of the future is actually the smart home of today – an intuitive destination with optimal efficiency and comfort, supporting truly healthier and happier lifestyles.
About Christian Schiemann
Christian has more than two decades of experience in the smart buildings and smart home industry in Australia, Germany and UK, helping customers to achieve more sustainable and automated building outcomes. In his Market Development Manager role, Christian is responsible for representing ABB’s building automation solutions in Australia and New Zealand, mainly with an approach of an open protocol solution (KNX), and promoting the advantages of automation across industries to stakeholders in a building process. Christian has participated as a keynote speaker at a range of industry events in the UK and Australia focusing on emergency efficiency in buildings and the impact on the global carbon footprint.